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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, December 2015
WEB Exclusive story

Make Yourself Useful

An update on power company–affiliated economic development around the US shows the diverse economic meanings of the word 'utility.'

Nearly 600 solar panels have been installed atop pedestrian bridges and around NRG Stadium, making their debut for the Houston Texans’ 2015 season. The solar panels complete a sustainability package at NRG Energy’s namesake stadium, including electric vehicle charging stations, energy-efficient LED lighting and NRG Street Charge solar-powered mobile device charging stations.
Photo courtesy of Business Wire and NRG

by Adam Bruns
Responsive Table

Every summer, as part of our evaluation process for choosing the Top Utilities in Economic Development, Site Selection surveys their teams across the country to find out how their projects and programs helped companies pursue growth and job creation during the previous calendar year. But their work continues all year long, and takes a lot of shapes beyond corporate project attraction and site expansion.

Here, by way of words and pictures, is a panoramic snapshot of some of those shapes flitting across our radar this fall.

Long Way from Deadwood

In September Black Hills Corp. broke ground on a new $70-million corporate headquarters in Rapid City, S.D., that shows how far the company has come since it started as an energy provider in the 1880s in the mining town of Deadwood. Today the $3.3-billion company's workforce of 2,000 serves 792,000 utility customers in seven states with wholesale electricity generation as well as production of natural gas, oil and coal. (See map below.)

“Black Hills Corporation is more than Black Hills Power,” said Black Hills Corp. Chairman, President and CEO David Emery in September. “We are one of the largest publicly traded companies headquartered in South Dakota ... By choosing to build our new corporate headquarters in Rapid City, we are reaffirming our commitment to Rapid City and the state of South Dakota.”

The company has grown 12-fold in the past decade, adding 300 new jobs in Rapid City. After closing on its $1.89-billion purchase of SourceGas, announced in July, it will have a total of 1.2 million customers in 790 communities across eight states, with 95 percent of those customers outside South Dakota.

Black Hills Corp.'s new HQ facility is designed to house up to 750 employees and provides room for future expansion with the addition of a third wing.

“This new facility should attract a diverse mix of talent that is proud to join us in calling Rapid City home," said Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender.

“Rapid City is poised for new growth, and this investment by Black Hills Corporation is the latest example,” said Benjamin Snow, president of the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership. “This new facility will anchor expansion along this entire U.S. Highway 16/Mount Rushmore Road corridor.”

The company is consolidating more than 500 Rapid City corporate employees from five locations into the new HQ. Emery said employees will begin moving into the new headquarters when construction is completed in fall 2017. "According to economic development modeling, our 550 local employees and their families have an economic impact of $81 million for the community annually," said the company.

Our new corporate headquarters will be in south Rapid City at the southwest corner of the intersection of Catron Boulevard and U.S. Highway 16/Mount Rushmore Road. We plan to break ground in September 2015 and begin moving employees into the new headquarters in the fall of 2017.

Dominion Overall

Investments by Dominion over the next six years for projects to strengthen Virginia's energy infrastructure and meet environmental goals will create thousands of jobs and inject $10.1 billion into the state's economy, according to a new study by Chmura Economic & Analytics released in mid-November.

"Our growing commonwealth requires an expanding and reliable energy infrastructure," said Paul Koonce, CEO of Dominion's Energy Infrastructure Group and president of Dominion Virginia Power. "Our capital investment program over the next six years is designed to meet that need and achieve environmental goals related to the federal Clean Power Plan. We are very pleased that in doing so it will create a huge economic and jobs impact in Virginia."

RSL Owner Dell Loy Hansen is joined by executives from Auric Solar, Rocky Mountain Power and other local leaders to flip the switch on the stadium's 2-MW solar system in October.

"In order to build the new Virginia economy, we must have low-cost, diverse and reliable energy resources," said Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who also recently shared insights with Site Selection in an exclusive interview. "These investments not only build upon an already solid foundation for future economic growth in Virginia, they also create tens of thousands of jobs and produce billions of dollars in capital that benefit the Commonwealth today."

The study, commissioned by Dominion, looked at the total economic impact in Virginia from the company's capital expenditures for new electric and natural gas infrastructure projects from 2015 through 2020. The study analyzed projects to be built by Dominion Virginia Power, the Dominion business unit providing electric service to more than 2.4 million retail customers in the state, and by Dominion Transmission, the Dominion subsidiary that constructs and operates natural gas storage facilities and interstate transmission pipelines.

Among the findings:

  • Construction of the projects will produce economic activity of almost $10.1 billion in Virginia during the six-year period. This includes more than $5.7 billion in direct construction expenditures by the company, plus almost $4.4 billion in additional economic activity as the effects of the construction spending spread throughout the Virginia economy, including the retail and services sectors.
  • From 2015-2020, the construction program will support an average of more than 11,900 jobs per year in Virginia, with about 6,400 directly engaged in the construction work and another 5,500 employed in other sectors of the state's economy.
  • The construction program would inject an average of about $1.68 billion into the Virginia economy during each year of the six-year period, with more than half — or about $957 million — resulting directly from construction spending. The rest would come from growth in other sectors of the economy as the effects of the spending spread. 
  • Beginning in 2021, operation of the facilities would produce an average of about $212 million in additional economic activity each year in the state. More than half of these benefits — $146 million — will result from direct spending by Dominion to support the facilities' operations. 

Among the projects included in the study were two state-of-the-art natural gas-fired power stations using energy efficient technology; solar and off-shore wind electric generation facilities; multiple electric transmission lines; environmental projects; and the proposed Strategic Underground Program to improve reliability by converting many overhead electric distribution lines to underground installation.

"Also included is the Virginia portion of the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 564-mile project originating in West Virginia's Harrison County then traversing parts of western, central and southern Virginia," said a Dominion release. Dominion Transmission will construct and operate the project for the Atlantic Coast Pipeline LLC, which filed an application for approval of the project with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in September. About 280 miles of the proposed pipeline would be located in Virginia. (Read Site Selection's Nov. 2014 analysis of this project.)

Not Bad for a Government Agency

The Tennessee Valley Authority announced in November that its economic development programs helped attract and retain more than 76,200 jobs and stimulated more than $7.8 billion in business investments in the Tennessee Valley region in fiscal year 2015. 

“Economic Development is a cornerstone of TVA’s mission to serve and make life better for the nine million residents of the Valley,” said TVA President and CEO Bill Johnson. “These results show that the tireless work of our economic development team helps businesses prosper, communities flourish, and people thrive across the entire region.” 

FY15 TVA Economic Development Year-end Results

Cross Section of
Companies Recruited
Alabama 4,500 Jobs $994 million • Google
• Torch Technologies
• Polaris Industries
Kentucky 8,200 Jobs $844 million • Douglas Autotech
• KapStone Container Corp.
• Graham Packaging
Middle Tennessee 30,200 Jobs $2.9 billion • Bridgestone Americas, Inc.
• M-Tek
• Under Armour
Mississippi 4,800 Jobs $407 million • Steel Dynamics, Inc.
• Emerald Home Furnishings
• Raybern Foods
Northeast Valley 10,400 Jobs $1.2 billion • Parkdale Mills
• DENSO Manufacturing
• TeamHealth
Southeast Valley 7,800 Jobs $627 million • Resolute Forest Products
• Gestamp
• West Star Aviation
West Tennessee 10,300 Jobs $856 million • Target Corp.
• Cummins, Inc.
• Kellogg Sales Co.

More than 224 companies were recruited to the Valley or expanded their existing operations in FY15, boosting economic growth across the entire area in a variety of industrial sectors. TVA significantly exceeded last year’s results with a 15-percent increase in companies recruited/expanded in the region and a 20-percent increase in new and retained jobs.

“Companies who relocate or expand here are a testament to TVA’s affordable, reliable electricity and our partnerships with our local and state agencies and local power companies who help make the Valley an attractive place to do business,” Johnson noted. 

TVA is a corporate agency of the United States that provides electricity for business customers and local power distributors serving more than 9 million people in parts of seven southeastern states. TVA receives no taxpayer funding, deriving virtually all of its revenues from sales of electricity.

TVA’s economic development contributions have attracted and retained more than 346,000 jobs and over $40 billion in capital investments since 2009. 

Waste Not

In November, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the waste reduction accomplishments of 29 participants in and endorsers of EPA’s WasteWise program and EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge. The agency's recognition of exceptional WasteWise participants for their annual improvement, overall improvement and waste prevention performance by sector in 2014 included naming Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) in Illinois as the winner in the Large Business category, alongside such other winners as Toyota and Kohl's. Overall, WasteWise in 2014 prevented and diverted more than 6.7 million tons of municipal and industrial waste from being disposed.

The utility, a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corp., provides service to approximately 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. Also in November, it received the Illinois Governor's Sustainability Award.

In October, ComEd and the City Colleges of Chicago celebrated 10 years of the Dawson Overhead Electrical Line Worker (OELW) Program, developed as a training program for Chicago-area residents who were interested in a career as a ComEd overhead lineman. Since the program’s inception in 2006, 319 students have graduated and at least 239 have jobs today in the electric and related industries. 

To mark the anniversary, Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO, also announced the “ComEd-Dawson Ten” — a full scholarship to be given to an exemplary student in each future class of the program.

NRG's innovations include new carbon-capture technology being installed at this coal-burning power plant in Texas.

“Job creation is the lifeblood of a healthy economy and vibrant communities,” said Pramaggiore.

"There are expected to be about 4,000 electrical power line installer and repair jobs coming to our region over the next decade, a 13-percent increase from today," said Chancellor Cheryl Hyman. "I want to thank ComEd for their partnership and look forward to working together to expand this program to ensure Chicagoans are prepared to seize the growing job opportunities."

ComEd and its economic development team, led by Sheila Owens and Ed Sitar, are currently working to pass legislation that would further expand the benefits of the state's 2011 Smart Grid Law by growing energy efficiency programs, increasing access to renewable energy sources, and setting policy to ensure affordability amidst clean energy innovation. "This Future Energy Plan legislation will further position northern Illinois for continued economic development growth," said a ComEd release in September.

Light Up, Everybody

Circling back out West, in October, Rio Tinto Stadium, the home of Major League Soccer’s Real Salt Lake as well as the USL Real Monarchs, unveiled the State of Utah’s largest privately-owned solar array, with RSL Owner Dell Loy Hansen joined by the region’s business and political leaders in flipping the switch to activate the system, in partnership with Auric Solar and Rocky Mountain Power.

The stadium's 2,020-kilowatt system of solar panels installed on the existing stadium structure as well as new covered parking areas nearby are now operational to offset 73 percent of Real Salt Lake’s total annual stadium power needs – the largest offset in North American professional sports and entertainment venues. The project was initiated back in April and took six months to complete.

“We have partnered with both Rocky Mountain Power and Auric Solar to increase our power efficiency while hosting more than 50 massive events each year in Sandy,” said Hansen.

Nearly 95 percent of the solar array (made up of 6,423 solar panels) has been installed on new solar-covered parking structures, including an entirely new parking lot on the north side of the stadium. Covering the equivalent of 3.10 acres, the aggregation of the panels would cover 2.3 American football fields, 1.3 FIFA regulation soccer fields, extending 7.9 miles or 41,500 feet if stacked end-to-end.

“Rocky Mountain Power is proud to be partners with the Rio Tinto Stadium and Real Salt Lake – two of Utah’s greatest treasures,” said Rocky Mountain Power President and CEO Cindy A. Crane on Thursday. “Our Utah Solar Incentive Program contributed $1.3 million to this impressive solar array and we look forward to it brightening the lives of all the fans and visitors who come here.”

Eric Silagy, President and CEO, Florida Power & Light Co.

American football stadiums are getting in on the act too. Also in October, NRG announced the completion of an energy technology project at NRG Park, the 350-acre sports and entertainment complex in Houston encompassing NRG Stadium and surrounding facilities. The efficient and renewable energy installations include solar panels, mobile phone power stations, electric vehicle charging stations, outdoor roof lighting and energy-efficient LED lights.

Nearly 600 solar panels have been installed atop pedestrian bridges and around NRG Stadium, making their debut for the Houston Texans’ 2015 season.

“NRG and Reliant are excited to enhance NRG Park so locals and visitors from around the world can experience first-hand new energy innovations that they might have heard or read about,” said Elizabeth Killinger, president of NRG Retail and Reliant. “We want to raise the bar for what consumers expect from their power company and inspire people to consider adopting energy innovations at home, at work and on-the-go.”

Not to be outdone, NASCAR venues are getting in on the act too. In November, Daytona International Speedway (DIS) and Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) today showcased construction progress related to FPL's new Solar Pavilion, one of three new structures that make up the FPL Solar Circuit at the "World Center of Racing." The commercial-scale distributed solar power installation at DIS complements the $400-million DAYTONA Rising redevelopment project. Once connected to the FPL grid, the solar energy at DIS will help to power approximately 400 Florida homes per year.

"As an avid race fan myself, it's an honor to be part of the extraordinary redevelopment of one of Florida's most iconic sites and tourist destinations," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of Florida Power & Light Co. "The thousands of solar panels we're installing here will provide zero-emissions electricity for our customers and the Speedway's operations, helping power races that are viewed around the world. Importantly, our efforts here at Daytona are yet another example of our ongoing commitment to expanding cost-effective solar here in Florida for the benefit of our customers, both large and small."

Upon completion of the installation in January 2016, DIS will become one of the top five U.S. professional sports venues in terms of solar energy capacity. The FPL Solar Circuit at Daytona International Speedway is one of several FPL solar projects that will add 225 megawatts of new, zero-emission solar energy by the end of 2016, cost-effectively tripling FPL's solar capacity and making Florida one of America's top solar energy producing states.

Florida Power & Light Company is partnering with Daytona International Speedway to accelerate clean energy with the FPL Solar Circuit. This rendering shows one of three solar structures that will add 2.1 megawatts of solar energy in 2016 as part of the DAYTONA Rising redevelopment project.
Photo courtesy of PRNewsFoto/Florida Power & Light Company

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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